“How we Compete with Apple”

By Nicole Carter, associate producer for Inc.com

After two decades of working with the tech giant, Darryl Peck opened a small Apple retail store called PeachMac. Here’s how he grew his business by imitating and improving the Apple shopping experience.

Darryl Peck was burned out. He was so heavily involved in the tech boom of the 80s and 90s that he says he missed his three daughters’ childhoods. So in 2007, he decided to get back to basics. He and his wife, Anne Lyndon, opened PeachMac, a simple brick-and-mortar Apple retail and service store in Athens, Georgia. Though he tamed his personal life (he eats lunch with his wife every day and dinner at home every night), Peck found that his new business venture posed a challenge: How do I maintain and support the Apple brand, while also being competitive with Apple stores? Here, he talks with Inc.com‘s Nicole Carter.

What’s your history with Apple?
I’ve been working in one way or another alongside Apple for 25 years. I was an Apple software developer back in the 80s. In 1995, I founded the first-ever internet retailer, Outpost.com, which, among other things, became the biggest reseller of Apple products. But a few years ago, I realized I needed to spend more time with my family. We had moved to Athens, and I had a few job offers, but nothing fit. One day I was driving around, and I saw a retail location with my name on it. I said to myself, “Well, Darryl, what do you know how to sell?” The answer was obvious.

How much of your business comes from selling these products?
PeachMac is an Apple Premier Specialist, which is the highest level of independent sellers the brand has. It means that more than 70 percent of the store’s computer sales are Apple, and for us it’s a 100 percent. But where we stand apart is in accessories. Whereas they sell maybe 300 or so different accessories, we sell around 1,500. We also test everything, and make sure it is up to snuff for our customer.

You now have five PeachMac stores, with plans for three more this year. What happened to the simple life?
I never thought it would turn into a chain. Frankly, at the time, I wasnt really looking for that kind of thing. But when we opened the doors in 2007, the demand was incredible. It was just myself, a technician, and a few other sales people. Like Apple, we place an emphasis on the customer service culture and the shopping experience. All of our products have to look good on the shelves. We figured out from zip code tracking that a good amount of our customers were driving 40 miles to get here. So after a lot of research, we opened the second store in Augusta in 2008. Turns out, a few days later, Apple announced they would open a store three miles away.

Were you shocked?
Stunned. We certainly felt the impact for a brief amount of time, but I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. We fought back by starting new programs and workshops for our customers. We have free workshops twice a week. Of course, we believe that our programs are better than those of the Apple mothership down the street. We definitely have to pay attention to what is going on in the Apple Stores.

Where do you look when hiring?
I usually look for the people first, and then create positions for them. I actually found one at an Apple Store. It was a few years ago, and I was talking to the assistant manager of one near Atlanta. This guy just impressed the heck out of me. Turns out he lived in Athens, where our headquarters is located, and was commuting to the Apple store like two hours a day. So I said to him, “Let me know when you are done with commuting, because I’d love to talk to you about opportunities with PeachMac.” He looked at me, and said, “Dude. I work for Apple.” A year later, I filled out a customer survey after a bad experience at an Apple Store and who happened to call me about the survey? This same guy! Long story short, he is now our director of retail operations. But I don’t go to Apple to recruit employees. That was a one-time deal.

Have you ever thought of expanding beyond just selling Apple products?
It has never even crossed my mind for an instant. Look around. Do you see any mom-and-pop computer stores left that sell Windows products? Even though I am competing with this powerhouse brand, I think we’ve done a good job keeping up. And it’s also awe-inspiring. The iPad, for example, is the hottest piece of consumer electronics in the world. I’ve been in this business a long time, and the iPad launch was like being in 1995 when the World Wide Web came around. You just knew it was going to change the way we lived.

This article was recently featured on Inc.com

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